A neighborhood in Munich that no one is able to avoid: The Westend. Schwanthalerhöhe, formerly also known as “splintered glass quarter” or “thief-quarter”, is today very well liked and “in”. What back in the day used to be the industrial suburbs is today one of the most popular neighborhoods of the (almost) city-center. The most important landmark of Bavaria, the Bavaria-statue, is right at the edge of the neighborhood. The old expo-halls and area such as the Theresienwiese have such big historical importance that naturally Westend, Schwanthalerhöhe will be one of the most important areas of Munich.
Westend or Schwanthalerhöhe: What’s the difference?
You would assume that one Google-search should clear up pretty quickly what the difference between Westend and Schwanthalerhöhe might be, wouldn’t you? Well, it’s not quite that easy actually, even though Google Maps would like a lot to convince you of that. Schwanthalerhöhe is the much older part of the neighborhood that today is called Westend.
Schwanthalerhöhe is located on the slope of the river Isar in its course back in the ice-age. Ambling through the area you will quickly pick up on that. In the West towards Theresienwiese (the big, open field where the Oktoberfest happens) and in the North toward the main train station the roads run steeply downhill. The area of Schwanthalerhöhe formed the outer city borders in the beginning of the 19th century. In those days the area was marked by the Bavaria-statue, a former shooting range and a great number of beer gardens. In the North, the Westendstraße forms the border of Schwanthalerhöhe and in the east Ganghoferstraße.
West of Schwanthalerhöhe is the Westend – nobody would make that differentiation though – the whole neighborhood is called Westend. Just sometimes Theresienhöhe, the area around Bavaria-Park, is called Schwanthalerhöhe. Westend ends in the West and South with the train track loop and in the North with the former train tracks to Augsburg, which is today the main line for suburban trains (Stammstrecke) between Donnersbergerbrücke und Hackerbrücke.
From Sendling Fields to Industrial powerhouse – The rapid growth of Schwanthalerhöhe
The Bavaria statue is one of the most important landmarks of Munich, if not of the whole of Bavaria. Munich without the Bavaria statue is unthinkable, at least today, even though she was only completed in 1853. The original initiator Ludwig I of Bavaria ceded his thrown before it could ever be completed in 1848. So, were the Sendling fields empty before the Bavaria statue was constructed?
As always, everything begins with the breweries …
Almost, it always begins with the breweries in Munich, and the same happened here, where they made the first step of developing the Sendling fields into what later will become Schwanthalerhöhe. We wrote another article about Munich beer and Munich breweries. In the Westend it is mostly interesting that starting back in 1800 the breweries were buying land on upper Isar slope to put fridge cellars into the ground.
The cellars and later the move of some breweries to the area, where Augustiner brewery is still located today, prompted the development of a strong beer-garden culture on the hill side next to Theresienwiese. Munich’s inhabitants in those days loved day-tripping to the beer gardens outside of the city. Today there’s sadly almost nothing left over of the beer gardens on Theresienhöhe, because in the seventies they were torn down. Only one was rebuilt and is today a very popular beer garden in Bavaria-Park next to the old expo-halls that today house the constant car exhibitions of Deutsches Museum.
And the Railroad finishes the job.
The decisive point for the development of Sendling fields into today’s Westend was made by the railroad. Originally, a railroad line ran directly through what is now the neighborhood, but it was very quickly transferred to the route of today’s main line for suburban train (“Stammstrecke”). Along the railroad tracks, many factories were built between 1840 and 1900, providing a steady flow of workers coming to the area. In the years between 1836 and 1900, the population in today’s Westend rose from 76 families in 38 houses to about 34,000 inhabitants. The rapid increase naturally led to social tensions.
However, this was by no means intended or wanted by the high lords of the royal residence city of Munich. In accordance with the plan of the Bavarian King Ludwig I “to make Munich a city that would do honor to Germany, so that no one would know Germany without having seen Munich“, many streets in the Westend were named after important and famous Munich patrician families. The plan was to make the Westend an area of the upper middle-class. However, this plan failed thoroughly with the rapid development of the Westend into an industrial suburban area.
Later, the workers organized themselves and formed cooperatives that built apartments themselves, but also bought up some. Even today, many apartments in the Westend are owned by the cooperatives, offering comparatively cheap housing in the middle of Germany’s most expensive city.
The expo and Bavaria park – How, when and why did they emerge?
The expo-area and Bavaria-park are today well-known, quiet and accessible to everyone in the middle of the city. They offer green relaxing areas and the passenger roads along the expo halls is a well known spot for the youth of the neighborhood to hang out. That hasn’t always been the case. Originally, the Bavaria-park has been owned by the house of the Bavarian kings and closed to the public. Before the Bavaria-statue was erected, the plan was to build a mansion for queen Therese. That is the reason why the park used to be called Theresien-grove. That plan was abandoned later and the Bavaria statue in combination with the hall of glory was built.
When in the late 19th century, the workers houses crept closer to the ensemble of Bavaria-statue and hall of glory the city decided to buy the land closest to the ensemble to not endanger the overall appearance.
This space was not only designed for commerce, but rather for arts and culture as well. The halls were used for concerts, too. Only after the airport was moved from Riem in 1998, the constant expo area moved there and the halls would from then on out be used as the constant exhibition of cars and transport of Deutsches Museum. Where today the hall of congress is located, there used to be a theater of the arts which was destroyed by bombing in the second world war.
National socialism and forced labor in the Westend
In the so-called “capital of the movement” Munich, the NSDAP had, as expected, quite good results in the Reichstag elections before the seizure of power. However, this was not the case in one district: the Westend. The KPD and the SPD were the two strongest parties here: 32.5% and 28.5%. The NSDAP only managed 18.5%.
On the basis of the election results, it is quite easy to assume that there were quite a number of people in the Westend who were politically persecuted by the Nazis. It is certain that there were some resistance cells against the National Socialists in the Westend. Those who would like to study these in more detail can do so with the book “Resistance and Persecution in Munich’s Westend” published by the Kulturladen.
Interesting in Westend during the Nazi period is the high number of forced laborers and prisoners of war who were not only housed in the neighborhood but were forced to work in the many local businesses. A branch of the Dachau concentration camp was also located in the Westend. This was located between Ridlerstrasse and Landsbergerstrasse. Until today, a memorial plaque for the concentration camp inmates is missing at this location. The prisoners perished in large numbers, sometimes 15 per day, during bomb disposal operations, writes Martin Rühlemann in “Forced Labor and the War Economy in the Westend between 1939 and 1945.”
In Westend there were at least 15 POW- and forced labor camps. The people interned there were mostly used by the company Metzeler, but also Opel Häusler, BMW and Dornier used a number of forced laborers.
Forgotten events in the Westend: The plane crash in December 1960
When talking about the history of a neighborhood, modern history can’t be left out. In the Westend this clearly includes the plane crash at Paulskirche on December 17, 1960. The catastrophe occurred shortly after a military plane had taken off from Riem Airport and one of the two engines failed immediately after takeoff. The right wing of the plane touched the top of the tower of the Paulskirche and crashed onto a streetcar on Bayerstraße. Since the plane had been fueled for a full flight all the way to London, a fire quickly broke out on the street, in the flames of which all 20 occupants of the plane, 27 people who had been sitting in the streetcar, and five passers-by lost their lives.
The accident triggered discussions not only in Munich but throughout Germany about airports close to cities. In this tragic case, the approach corridors over densely populated areas had been proven to be extremely dangerous. Nevertheless, due to fierce public protest, Riem Airport was not closed until the 1990s and today’s Franz-Josef Strauß Airport in Freising was opened. In the West End, the incident is commemorated today with a memorial plaque to the victims of the accident. This can be found at the site of the accident on the corner of Bayerstrasse and Martin-Greif-Strasse north of Theresienwiese.
What today’s Westend is: A hip in-neighborhood
Well, enough now of the history of the Westend. It is interesting as well, what today’s Westend is all about. Today the Westend is probably the most well-liked area for going out in Munich’s west. It is one of the few areas of Munich where you instantly get a neighborhood, “Kiez”, vibe. Whoever like Hamburg or Berlin will feel very comfortable in the Westend. Created is the vibe by the inhabitants of the neighborhood who live and display a very close connection to each other, the cute cafés and the slowed down rhythm of life.
We would love to tell you all about every nice place to go out in the Westend, but that will be impossible, which is why the author will take the freedom to just list his personal favorites:
he Kilombo in the Westend is a pleasant corner pub with stylish interior design and a relaxed flair. Corner pub sounds run-down at first, but that doesn’t fit the Kilombo at all. The room is quite large, never too loud and always with good music. The owners and the staff are extremely friendly, but what is special is that the youth of the neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods go here as well as many old-established Munich residents. A wonderful place to meet and hang out.
Kilombo: Gollierstraße 14A, 80339
The Westend “Best Döner”
The Best Döner is no Bar, but the name has some truth to it. Best Döner is without a doubt the best Döner in the Westend. Freshly baked bread, good incredients and (no exaggeration) a god-like sauce make this Döner the perfect street food. It is even prominently featured on a run-down of the best Döner places in Munich by the SZ which was put together with the star cook Thomas Messerer.
Westends Best Döner: Trappentreustraße 17, 80339
Again, no Bar, but the most likely to be open after hours. Munich is not at all known for a culture of late shopping possibilities or even the possibility to get a beer for a reasonable price after 8 pm. Most of the times the gas station is the only way, except in the Westend. Because here there famous King Butt is located, and it wouldn’t be surprising that people even bike here for ten minutes to get a beer late at night. The store keeper, who is even outside of the neighborhood mostly known as “the king”, doesn’t seem to have a lot of need for sleep. Because, during most of the night and day hours you can find him in his office chair behind the counter. The beer used to be 1,50 € but has risen to 2,00 € by now. The difference in price to the gas station therefore is fleeting, but the chilling outside on the passenger way (important) next to the shop alone is a good reason to pass by.
King Butt: Schwanthalerstraße 154, 80339